The Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a pre-poll ally of the Congress in the just-concluded Assembly elections in Assam, on Friday flew 17 of its 20 contestants to Jaipur to keep them away from any attempts of horse trading by the BJP.
The three-phase polls to the 126-seat Assam Assembly concluded on April 6. The results are scheduled on May 2.
Of the 20 who contested the polls, those who did not travel to Jaipur are Sirajuddin Ajmal, Ajmal’s younger brother and contestant from the Jamunamukh constituency, a family bastion; Champak Kalita, a general secretary of the party contesting from Barkhetry constituency; and Dalgaon candidate Mujibar Rahman, who is unwell.
“We have taken some time off. Of course, the risk of horse trading is there,” AIUDF’s influential general secretary Aminul Islam, a candidate from Mankachar constituency in Assam, told The Indian Express over phone from Jaipur.
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In Jaipur, tasked with hosting the AIUDF leaders, Congress Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi said, “Rajasthan’s slogan is ‘Padharo Mhare Des’ (welcome to my land), the more people arrive, the better it is for Rajasthan tourism.”
Speaking to journalists outside Fairmont resort, and flanked by Rajasthan Congress MLA from Adarsh Nagar Rafeek Khan, Joshi said, “With BJP government at the Centre, there is always a possibility of horse trading. All of you know how horse trading is done, the entire nation knows and is watching. The Congress party will certainly bear their expenses. Earlier too, when our guests, our MLAs had arrived, AICC bore the costs.”
On Thursday evening, Joshi had visited the Fairmont resort, and later met Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot too. Rafeek Khan too met the CM. But Joshi told The Indian Express he did not know about the arrival of AIUDF candidates on Thursday.
Ajmal, an MP and perfume baron, leads the AIUDF, which enjoys support from Assam’s Bengali-origin Muslim community. The AIUDF was formed in 2005 with the coming together of at least 10 social and non-political organisations representing minority interests which felt that the then Congress government was not doing enough for the community.
In the outgoing Assembly, the AIUDF holds 14 seats. It contested 19 seats this time (including in alliance with the Congress, and is in alliance with Congress as a part of the ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance). The Congress-AIUDF alliance hopes to win several constituencies of western Assam where the minority votes play a crucial role.
In this election campaign, the AIUDF and Ajmal have been at the receiving end of the BJP’s rhetoric. The saffron party has constantly stoked Assamese fears of illegal immigration by saying there would be unstopped influx from Bangladesh should the AIUDF come to power in alliance with the Congress.
Yet, Congress sources say that the BJP “might try” to horse trade if the electoral contest proves to be a close one on the result day — and hence all “steps” must be taken. However, the AIUDF leaders and contestants The Indian Express spoke to on Friday did not say that any such attempt has been made so far.
“We have successfully fought the divisive agendas of the BJP. We are sure that people have voted for the ‘Mahajot’. Now, we are ready to fight any kind of nefarious designs of the BJP — and we will not allow them to do in Assam what they did in Manipur or Goa,” Rhituporna Konwar, an Assam Congress spokesperson, told The Indian Express.
Another AIUDF contestant, who requested not to be named, said over phone from Jaipur, downplayed the threat of horse-trading at this point. “At this point, it’s more of a break for us…We arrived earlier today in Jaipur.”
“We don’t know how long they will stay, all that planning will be done from Assam. Also, we don’t know how many more will arrive… We have made the arrangements. There is corona and it shouldn’t be that someone tests Covid positive. We are testing those who have arrived,” Joshi said.
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